book reviews, healthcare, love, marriage

Repost: Catherine Graves’ intimate memoir about losing her husband…

Here’s a reposted review from Epinions.com. It’s short, which tells me I probably wrote it for their annual “lean n’ mean” challenges. We were supposed to write reviews of less than 500 words to be entered in the monthly sweepstakes. I think I won a couple of those. Anyway, this post was written February 6, 2013 and appears here as/is.

Catherine Graves feared marital infidelity when she noticed a change in her husband, John.  The two had been running a business together.  Catherine had always been the practical one, while John was more whimsical and easygoing.  But then his behavior began to change and Catherine was sure he was cheating on her.  Then she wondered if he was dealing with a serious bout of depression.  They saw a therapist, who thought maybe John needed time in a rehab facility to find out what was wrong.  The couple went to Sierra Tuscon, an inpatient counseling center, where a staffer brought up the possibility that John Graves’ problem was neurological, rather than psychological.  When John experienced seizures and was taken to a hospital, his brain tumor was finally discovered.

The doctor who discovered the tumor told Catherine that it was cancerous and putting pressure on his brain.  She told Catherine that while John could have treatments that might extend his life, his condition was terminal.  John Graves had what is known as Glioblastoma multiforme, a nasty and thankfully rare brain tumor that kills quickly.

In her 2011 book, Checking Out: An In-Depth Book At Losing Your Mind, Catherine Graves explains what it was like to suddenly lose her beloved husband to a personality altering sickness and death.  Then, once John died, Catherine began to lose her mind with depression.  The aftermath of brain cancer nearly destroyed the author, her children, and John’s children.   

My thoughts

I was alerted to Checking Out when I read an online review of it on CNN last year.  It took awhile to get around to reading it, and once I did get to it, reading the book didn’t take much time.  It’s a short memoir, but packed with raw emotion and eloquence.  Graves includes touching revelations from her children, Alex and Caroline, products of another relationship who thought of John Graves as their dad and were devastated to lose him. 

As poignant as I think Checking Out is, I thought it was a bit short and could have used more substance.  The paperback version is priced at $16.95 and $9.99 on Kindle, which is pretty steep for a book that only takes a few hours to read.  On the other hand, this book is a beautifully written tribute from a woman who obviously loved her husband and whose tragic loss almost destroyed her.  Her recovery is triumphant and I was particularly moved by the thoughtful passages her children contributed.        

Checking Out will move many readers as it did me.  I certainly recommend it to those who can bear to read about such a depressing subject as losing one’s beloved spouse.  While I wish this book had been a little more substantive, I admit that it’s beautifully written.  I think it rates five stars and a box of tissues.

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family, LDS, love, marriage

Discovering you’re wife #4…

Yesterday, someone wrote an off topic post on the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. Or, she’d labeled it as OT. Personally, I didn’t think it was an off topic post at all. I’m sure a lot of people who are ex members of the LDS church can relate to the ultimate breach of trust and lack of respect she describes with this post.

I was aware of my husband’s previous marriage. What I didn’t know, until I recently discovered it, is that I’m actually wife #4, not #2, I thought. We discussed previous relationships before we got married, but he referred to them as relationships, not marriages. I also pulled out our marriage license application where you have to declare which marriage this is…he wrote “second”.

When asked why he did this, he replied, “it was along time ago, the marriages were so short, I thought you may not marry me, you didn’t ask”.

I’m really struggling with this. It feels kinda like discovering hidden church stuff all over again.

This lady’s post was up for several hours before someone responded to it. I happened to be that person. My comment to her was this:

I don’t blame you for being upset. I would wonder what else I wasn’t told in that situation. It’s a breach of trust.

I could have written more, but I was on my iPad and it’s a pain to type on the iPad. Also, I really just wanted her to feel heard and validated without having to wade through too much. Her instincts are correct. Her husband lied to her, and that’s a major betrayal. I’m not an ex Mormon, but Bill is. When we met, he claimed to be a devout church believer. However, we met in a place not typically frequented by church types. After awhile, I realized he was trying to convince himself that he was a believer. He wanted to save his first marriage– felt it was his duty to try to save it, even though it was a relationship built on bullshit. Those kinds of relationships pretty much never last.

A couple of hours later, another nevermo regular poster also replied. She agreed with me. Then, came the somewhat inappropriate responses from men. One guy wrote:

“Everyone with the ability to speak ‘edits’ their life story.”

That may be true… but glossing over two previous marriages is a bit extreme, in my view, even if they were super short and “meaningless”. At the very least, it means that her spouse once had little regard for the institution of marriage. He obviously didn’t take it seriously a couple of times in his life. I would have a hard time regaining trust for my husband if it turned out he’d hidden something this significant. I also think it says something when the spouse who lies by omission says something like “I was afraid you wouldn’t marry me if you knew the whole truth about me.” Cover ups are almost always worse than the truth. At least if you tell someone the truth, they have the ability to decide for themselves about the right thing to do .

I’m interested in the whole story… even the ugly parts. Sometimes, the ugly parts make the story more compelling.

Consider this. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know that I love my husband with all my heart. This year, we will have been happily married for 19 years. But if I’d relied only on my common sense, I never would have married him. He had a lot of baggage that would have sent a lot of women packing. Here’s a list of his “shortcomings” from those early days, over twenty years ago.

  • He had bad credit. He and Ex had gone through both a foreclosure and a bankruptcy. After getting to know him, I realized that Bill wasn’t the one with the problem handling money. But if I had been exercising common sense, I wouldn’t have gotten involved with him because of his financial issues.
  • He was broke. After his divorce, Bill was paying over half his salary to Ex in child support and alimony. It was really tough going for awhile, but I realized it was a time limited issue. And, based on our lifestyle, you can see that I was right.
  • His ex wife was (and still is) legitimately “crazy”. Those of you who have followed my blogs probably already know how crazy. She has no compunction about making insane demands on people and smearing them to others. She withheld visitation with the kids from Bill and completely alienated them after he married me. I strongly suspect she has a character disorder.
  • He’d had a vasectomy. Bill is not only my first husband; he’s also the only man I’ve ever been intimate with. I wanted to have children, and he’d already had them with Ex, who then asked him to have a vasectomy. He obliged. However, he was willing to have it reversed for me. That was enough for me, even though I never managed to have children. Now, I realize maybe not having children was a good thing, given how complicated his situation with Ex and their kids has been.
  • He was involved in a “weird” religion. Not everyone thinks Mormonism is “weird”, but coming from the South, where most people are Protestants, it was certainly different to me. Fortunately, Bill wasn’t that committed to Mormonism, nor did he feel compelled to convert me. If he had, our relationship probably would not have worked. I can tell you right now, I would never willingly be involved in a faith that dictates what undergarments I wear or what beverages I choose to drink. Other people’s mileages vary, of course.
  • I met him on the Internet in a chat room! I might as well have met him in a bar!

So why has our relationship worked, given all of these “obvious” shortcomings? It’s worked because Bill was completely honest with me. Three months after we started chatting, he sent me a long email explaining everything, even though he worried that I might reject him. Also, he stayed platonic in his conversations with me until he was legally divorced. He even wore his wedding ring until his split was official. We didn’t meet in person until about a year after his divorce was official. Even after the divorce was official, he wasn’t inappropriate with me. I realized that he was a decent, honest person and I could trust him. He also eventually learned that he could trust me, despite what he’d been through in his first marriage.

It took about five years before Bill completely trusted me with finances. He finally gave me access to his bank account when he deployed to Iraq and I had to handle the household bills. While he was gone, I made a point of paying off all of the horrible, high interest credit cards he had because he’d trusted his ex wife to pay the bills and she hadn’t. A year later, USAA, which had taken a loss in his bankruptcy, granted him a new credit card. PenFed let him refinance a car loan, saving us hundreds of dollars. He’s never missed paying a bill the whole time we’ve been together. He now has an excellent credit score.

When Bill goes on business trips, he is incredibly reliable about contacting me. In fact, it’s almost annoying… I’ll be watching a movie or something and he’ll want to chat. But I appreciate it, because I know he’s thinking of me and is faithful. I don’t worry about him fucking around when he goes TDY. He is extremely respectful and faithful, and I knew he was when he was still married to his ex wife. Meanwhile, she was shacking up with her now third husband in the house Bill was paying for and she later let go into foreclosure. I was certain he was trustworthy when I met him, and so far, he’s proven me right.

Over the years, Bill has been incredibly brave about telling me pretty much everything about his life, even some things that are completely embarrassing and potentially humiliating. And he has had quite a life… and a lot of weird stuff has happened to him. He could write a book. Every day, I’m amazed at how balanced, reliable, and decent he is, despite everything that has happened in his past. He could have chosen not to tell me about the embarrassing things in his past and risked being rejected by me. But, it turns out I was willing to trust my instincts, rather than common sense. I knew he was the best kind of person, and I was right. It would devastate me if he’d hidden something as major as prior marriages, no matter how short. It would mean he didn’t trust me, and that would make me wonder if I should be trusting him.

I don’t think strong relationships start with deception, either outright untruths or lies by omission. When I married Bill, I was taking on a new relative. That means he’s family… family I CHOSE. I wouldn’t voluntarily choose to make someone a family member if he didn’t trust me enough to tell me the whole truth about who he is. Likewise, I would expect my partner to know everything there is to know about me. But I also realize that I have been extremely lucky. Bill is an honest person who doesn’t hide skeletons in the closet. I am also an honest person. We told each other the truth. A person who can’t handle hearing the whole truth about serious issues before agreeing to marriage is probably not the best candidate to be husband or wife.

A good example of times when honesty is NOT the best policy…

Now… it’s true that I do believe in being completely honest about the major things, like prior marriages, criminal history, health situations, and finances. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s always a good thing to be completely honest about everything. Like, for instance, if Bill thinks my ass looks especially dumpy one day, he doesn’t have to be honest about that and tell me so! That would hurt my feelings unnecessarily, especially since there’s nothing I can immediately do about having a dumpy ass. Fortunately, he’s not the type of guy who is overly hung up on looks. 😉

But yes… if I found out that I was wife #4, rather than wife #2, I would be very hurt and feel betrayed. I think it would be difficult to trust a partner who hid something major like that from me. And I would not think too highly of someone who tried to brush it off by saying the marriages were short or insignificant and, therefore, unworthy of being mentioned. Marriage, to me, is a huge deal. The fact that someone got married twice, but doesn’t see them as significant is a huge red flag, in my opinion. I have a lot of empathy for the lady on RfM who is making this discovery now. I wish her luck and strength. She might even feel like she doesn’t even know this man anymore.

At least at this point, Bill and I are a team. We work together to achieve common goals. He supports what I do, and I support what he does. We trust each other, and, for the most part, we’re completely honest. We don’t hide things. Like… I can say whatever is on my mind and, for the most part, Bill doesn’t judge me for them. The same goes for Bill. Because I think we both know that neither of us wants the other person to be hurt. That being said, though, I also think I hit the husband lottery. Bill is an unusually mature and respectful person. Most people aren’t like him, including myself. I never forget that, and I try not to abuse it.

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Ex

And I thank you…

This morning, I’m listening to vintage Bonnie Raitt. In my enormous CD collection, most of which is in storage in Texas, I own a copy of Bonnie’s 1979 album, The Glow. I was 7 years old in 1979 and didn’t become acquainted with Bonnie’s genius until I was a lot older. She really got popular when I was in college with songs like “Nick of Time” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. But thanks to my work at the campus radio station, I became familiar with her “greatest hits” compilation, Classics. That’s where I got an inkling of what a versatile artist she is. I discovered that I appreciated her bluesy stuff even more than her pop hits. I became a fan. So one day, when I saw The Glow on sale at my favorite CD shop, I bought it.

That album had Bonnie’s funky cover of the song, “I Thank You”, a number that has been done by many, many different artists, from Sam & Dave to ZZ Top. I was most familiar with ZZ Top’s version of the song, but I recognized it when Bonnie sang it. I had that song in mind this morning as I sat down to write this post. But as I was looking for a good video, I stumbled across another song by Bonnie called “Thank You”. It appeared on her 1971 self-titled album. After listening to the lyrics, I decided that it was a more appropriate choice for this post. “I Thank You” has romantic overtones, but “Thank You” is just about pure love and gratitude. And that’s what today’s post is about.

Sittin’ here thinking, baby, about you
I’m wonderin’ how I ever got through my life without you
Days passed me by and left my life somewhere behind
Games I was trying left me old before my time
You came into my life almost like you knew
The time was running out I came running home with you
You taught me how to love you
You helped me to believe
You could even love me
I was all you’d ever need
Sometimes when you’re sleepin’
I wonder if its true
I’m afraid they’ll come and take away this precious dream with you
Then you wake and hold me and love me through the night
Then I’ll know that somehow everything will be alright
Thank you baby, for giving me my life
I love you honey, you’ve given me my life
Thank you baby, for giving me my life

Bill came home last night. He was exhausted after many hours of travel that started Monday morning. He boarded a plane in Salt Lake City and flew to Las Vegas. After hanging out in the airport all day, he got on another flight from Vegas to London. That took eleven or twelve hours. Then finally, on Tuesday evening, he boarded another flight from London to Frankfurt. How he was still conscious last night, I’ll never know. I’m glad he took a taxi home.

Arran was delighted to see him. All week, he’s been waiting for his favorite person to come home. There were a couple of nights at about five o’clock, he’d patiently wait in the foyer for Bill. He was disappointed when Bill didn’t show up. When Bill finally walked through the door at about eleven o’clock last night, Arran joyfully ran down the steps to welcome him home. I was delighted to see Bill, too. We enjoyed a long hug and he cried a little. He’s been crying a lot over the past few days.

A few weeks ago, when Bill told me he had to go to Vegas on business, I suggested that he try to go see his younger daughter. They’ve been Skyping for the past three years, but Saturday morning was the first time he’d seen her in the flesh since 2004. I hate it when he goes on TDYs, especially when they’re in a different time zone. I definitely didn’t want to extend Bill’s time away, but I figured it was a great opportunity for him to finally see his daughter in person. It’s not so hard to reach Utah from Nevada.

Bill’s daughter had initially wanted us all to meet up for a holiday visit, but I knew that they needed to have some time together alone, because they had a lot to talk about… stuff that doesn’t involve me. I also thought it would be better if they did it on a regular day, rather than a holiday. Holidays often prompt high expectations that are rarely met. I didn’t want a holiday to be ruined if their meeting didn’t go well. Also, I wasn’t in Bill’s life for the first six years of younger daughter’s life, and though I’ve heard a whole lot of stories from Bill’s perspective, I didn’t know anything about younger daughter’s. I’ve also never met Ex in person, so I have a limited perspective of what she’s really like. What I know about her is reason enough to stay clear of her. Bill and his daughter needed to be able to clear the air without interference from anyone else. Younger daughter’s husband was great about that. He took care of the kids so that Bill and his daughter could bond.

Bill described the meeting. He knocked on the door and she opened it… and they hugged for a really long time. He said it felt like a little girl who was missing her daddy… and there was no awkwardness. As he was describing their first looks at each other, I was reminded of the day I met Bill for the first time. The circumstances were eerily similar. We’d been chatting online for about 18 months. He came to the city where I was studying– again, on business. Knocked on the door. I opened the door and after reaffirming that I was indeed a woman, he gave me a warm, secure hug. (Hey, it was the early days of the Internet and we’d only exchanged a couple of pictures…)

Last night, Bill gave me a thank you note that his daughter wrote to me. It was just two lines. She thanked me for being so good to her dad and added that she could see that he’s happy. And she wrote that she knew I’d helped him. After I read it, I was deeply moved. Then I remembered that Bill gave me a thank you note after our first date. She’s definitely his kid. She’s kind, thoughtful, and extremely empathetic… rare and precious qualities that she shares with her dad.

I remember in May 2001, when we met in person for the first time, Bill and I enjoyed a couple of dates. He stayed in a hotel room and we went out to dinner one night, then had a picnic the next day. In those days, Bill was really broke and couldn’t afford to wine and dine me. He was also a practicing Mormon, but didn’t mind that I wasn’t and wouldn’t be. We drove around Columbia, South Carolina and I showed him where I worked and where I attended classes. At the end of our visit, he handed me the thank you note and said, “It’s going to be so hard to go back to typing on the computer.”

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about him. I was very inexperienced with men and up to my ass in academics. Over time, it became obvious that I was in love with him. Then he moved from Leavenworth, Kansas to an assignment at the Pentagon. It was about a month before 9/11. Labor Day weekend that year, I invited Bill to come down to Natural Bridge, Virginia. He came down– again, stayed in a hotel– and we visited beautiful Goshen Pass and he met my grandmother, then 95 years old. When he left to go back to work at the Pentagon, Granny advised me to marry him. Then, a week later, 9/11 happened… and Bill was there for it. After that, we decided we needed to tell people we were together. We were engaged a few months later.

When Bill told his ex wife he was going to propose to me, she said, “Well, I guess now I can tell my boyfriend we can get married. He’s asked three times.” Two months later, she was remarried. Two months after that, she was pregnant, and doing her best to break Bill’s ties with his children. Ex also told her kids that Bill had cheated on her with me… even though she had moved her boyfriend into the house that Bill was paying for… and she and Bill were still married. As time went on, the girls became more and more alienated. For a few years, Bill’s ex stepson spoke to him, but that turned out to be more about money than anything else. We worried that the girls would be like their brother– although in fairness to him, he seems to have matured and turned his life around. Maybe someday he’ll reconnect, too.

We really thought the kids would never speak to him again. Younger daughter, especially, was hateful… or, at least seemed to be hateful. After awhile, I got tired of hoping for what seemed to be an impossible happy ending, and I hardened. I didn’t think I’d ever see the day that Bill would reunite with his daughters, and I gave up on the idea. I got angry when younger daughter inadvertently intruded during our much anticipated 14th wedding anniversary celebration in Ireland. Bill had checked Facebook, and she turned up as a “person he might know”. I will never forget the look of shock and grief on his face when he saw his daughter listed as “someone he might know”. I really resented it, because the last we’d heard from her, was basically a Mormon version of “fuck you”. It was, yet again, another intrusion during a special event from people who supposedly hated Bill. I knew he didn’t deserve their hatred and disrespect, and I refused to tolerate it. I just wanted them all to go away, once and for all, and leave us alone.

A few months later, Bill’s dad and stepmother lost their dog to old age. Younger daughter expressed condolences on Facebook. Bill tentatively greeted her. They started chatting and emailing. I was suspicious at first. I worried that she’d be like her mother. All indications before then were that she was like her. We’d already been through so much pain… and Bill had agonized so much for so many years. I simply wanted it to end.

Last night, I told Bill that life with his ex wife must be like an especially sick version of Three’s Company, where everyone operates on the basis of a misunderstanding. She spins everything, triangulates, and makes it impossible for anyone to compare notes and know what’s really going on. It may seem cold of me, but I got to the point at which I just didn’t want to play the game anymore. I have my own baggage stemming from my upbringing, and this was a lot to deal with. So I just gave up hope of connecting with Bill’s daughters out of self-preservation. It was easier for me, since I was never allowed to have a relationship with them.

Fortunately, I was wrong about younger daughter. Turns out, she’s Bill’s kid through and through. She eventually realized that her mother is toxic and, at age 18, was more than ready to move out of her mother’s house. She noticed how many times her mother and grandmother had married… and how utterly screwed up their lives were. And, with surprising courage and resilience, and a lot of help from Mormons, younger daughter moved to Utah and started college. She arrived there with nothing, because Ex would not make it easy for her. In fact… it was much like it was for Bill in 1999, when he and his ex wife split. He left with the clothes on his back. So it was for younger daughter. And, like it was for Bill, she felt a lot better once she was out of that environment, even though she had no money or help from her parents.

Bill discovered that younger daughter had wanted to reconnect with him for years, but she was terrified that he would reject her. Likewise, Bill had been reading younger daughter’s blog and wanted to comment, but was afraid he’d be blocked. Indeed, Ex apparently found out Bill was reading and shut the blog down for awhile. Ex was afraid Bill would try to “steal” his daughters from her. Ex thinks of her children as possessions that can be “stolen”, rather than their own people. She had a similar reaction when younger daughter met her husband. She tried very hard to break them up. This is what happens to anyone in Ex’s sphere. She has to control everything.

I password protected my initial reactions to what Bill discovered during his visit because as visceral and raw as some of my posts have been about this situation, I was even angrier about things that came to light over the weekend. And, because I now have great respect for younger daughter, I didn’t want those very personal and profane words out in the open where her mother could read them. I know she’s read my blogs. I don’t really care if she knows that I think she’s a massive cunt. That’s a given. But I don’t feel that way about younger daughter… and also, I didn’t want to field commentary from those who don’t know the situation and want to blame this whole thing on me. I’ll admit, I’m not always likable and I am far from perfect, but this situation is entirely on Ex. I’ll take ownership of things that are my fault. I have only met Bill’s daughters once, and though I have kept my distance, I have never discouraged him from seeing or talking to them. That’s not my place.

I don’t know Bill’s daughters. I wanted to know them, but they were very convincing when they sent letters disowning him. We had a feeling the letters he received in 2006 were coached, but they were coupled with the way the girls behaved the last time Bill saw them in person. During that visit in 2004, younger daughter would barely look at Bill, let alone speak to him. So we believed her when she wrote that she didn’t care about him and that she preferred her stepfather– her “everyday daddy”– to be her dad. It’s now very clear that the whole thing was bullshit entirely orchestrated by her paranoid and selfish mother.

Bill came home emotionally and physically exhausted… but I think, overall, his visit to Utah was life changing. I’m glad I encouraged him to visit his child… and meet his adorable grandchildren. His grandson looks a lot like him. And… I have to say, I was feeling pretty good about everything, but when Bill handed me that two sentence thank you note from his daughter, it was as if the last seventeen years of pain regarding their situation just melted away. It’s amazing how little it takes to forgive someone when you know they are sincere. I know younger daughter is sincere. It makes me feel so good to know that Bill has passed on his goodness to another generation.

I was so wrong about younger daughter. I’m really glad I was. I hope now we can get to know each other. And now that I know a little bit more about the whole situation– including that of older daughter’s– I have a lot more empathy and respect for them.

I know some people have felt I was overly harsh regarding this situation. I know I was. But you have to understand the person we were up against. I have never met anyone as cruel, destructive, selfish, and ultimately stupid, as Bill’s ex wife is. We simply didn’t know if her daughters were going to be like her, or if they were going to be like their real father. I’m relieved to know that Bill imprinted them more than we knew… and despite what Ex has said, they never forgot him. And, for that, I am thankful. I’m glad we stuck it out and Bill trusted his daughter more than I did. But that’s only natural, because he knows them and I don’t. Maybe someday, we can change that.

Incidentally, it occurs to me that today is Ex’s birthday. I’m glad this year, her daughter gave herself a present by finally seeing her dad.

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anniversary

Oh… how we danced on the night we were wed!

Uh… actually, we didn’t do much dancing on November 16, 2002. I think we danced once, mainly because Bill doesn’t dance and I was wearing a big white dress that didn’t lend itself to moving around. And we didn’t do any horizontal dancing, either, because we were both too tired and I was being visited by Aunt Flow. She showed up right after the ceremony, right on schedule. So there wasn’t any dancing and, in fact, our wedding was fraught with tensions ranging from dealing with the obnoxious caterer, the irritating florist, my organist mom getting pissed off that the organist kept messing up hymns during our rehearsal, my father-in-law fainting right before we said our vows, and our photographer going into combat mode and taking pictures of the whole thing… It was probably the worst day of our marriage so far. 😉

The night before our wedding, Bill was very nervous. His mom tried to comfort him by saying, “Don’t worry, Bill. No one ever died at the altar.” Imagine Bill’s horror when, just as we were about to say our vows, Bill’s father starts to collapse. It turned out he’d locked his knees, trying to emulate the soldiers in their uniforms, and that caused him to faint. He was revived and we said our vows, but the first thing Bill thought of as his dad was having his sinking spell was that his dad was going to die at the altar at Virginia Military Institute, right in front of the huge mural of the Battle of New Market.

And then, we weren’t officially married until about two weeks after the wedding, because the court clerk of Rockbridge County misplaced our marriage license and wouldn’t cooperate with us in trying to find it. I’ve already written the story about that, and how Bill had to use his powers of persuasion to get that mess sorted out. We have definitely had our challenges since that rainy day in November 2002.

Despite the issues we faced at the wedding, it was still a wonderful day. My former boss, then a Presbyterian minister, was the officiant. We had beautiful music, including “Highland Cathedral”, and several other gorgeous hymns. My friend, Robert, a gifted pastry chef, made our cake for us. We got some lovely photos and no one said or did anything embarrassing or illegal. All in all, it was a successful day regardless. And the good news is, things have gotten even better as time has passed.

Hard to believe I walked down the aisle to this majestic piece 17 years ago… we had a piper and an organist and it was beautiful. Maybe not as beautiful as this rendition… but it kicked some ass.

Today, we’ve been married for 17 years. They’ve all been good years, despite everything that has happened. Look at everything we’ve weathered! Here’s a list:

  • Nine moves, twice to Germany and once within Germany
  • Bill’s narcissistic ex wife and her smear campaigns
  • Shunning from his daughters and ex stepson
  • Multiple job changes
  • My prolonged unemployment and subsequent early retirement from the career for which I spent three years and many thousands of dollars in training
  • Manipulative family drama from my family
  • Manipulative family drama from his family
  • Deployment and extended TDYs
  • War
  • Military retirement
  • My father’s death
  • My mother’s breast cancer
  • Bill’s financial recovery from his first marriage, to include bankruptcy and foreclosure
  • My student loans
  • Facebook
  • Bad living situations
  • Tyrannical and intrusive landlords (and there have been a couple)
  • Abusive boss in a war zone
  • Infertility
  • Extreme child support payments
  • Bill’s decision to leave Mormonism
  • Health scares
  • Co-dependency
  • My depression and anxiety
  • Losing four rescue dogs to diseases

I’m sure I can think of more items to add to this already impressive list of the challenges we’ve faced. It’s more fun to think of our victories, though. Here’s a list:

  • Exploring life in five states and Germany
  • Visiting more countries than I can count
  • Mom has been cancer free since 2014
  • Bill reuniting with one of his daughters and meeting his grandchildren and son-in-law on Skype
  • Finally being completely left alone by Bill’s ex
  • Multiple job successes
  • Bill earning two master’s degrees
  • Paying off my student loans for my three degrees
  • My writing and music career, which some people appreciate and for which I have earned some actual money
  • Deciding to distance ourselves from family dramas on both sides
  • Confronting people who are abusive and taking legal action when necessary
  • Full financial recovery so that Bill’s credit score is now as good as mine is
  • Better living situations
  • Military retirement
  • Church free Sundays
  • Ending child support
  • Realizing that not having children isn’t the end of the world
  • Being basically healthy– neither of us has been hospitalized yet
  • Being more assertive instead of resorting to ineffective behaviors
  • Surviving war… and not having PTSD
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder… TDYs and deployments can be blessings
  • Realizing that Facebook isn’t the end all, be all
  • Realizing that my dad and other relatives who have passed on are no longer in pain or suffering
  • Most of the time, I’m not depressed or anxious and I no longer require medication
  • Adopting five awesome dogs and making a commitment to keep giving a loving home to dogs who need them
  • Working hard to eliminate and minimize debts
  • Bill’s work being recognized and appreciated, and getting to live in Germany, which despite everything, is a great place to live.

We have had our share of trials, but I can truly say that as much as I loved Bill on our wedding day, I love him so much more seventeen years later. He is a wonderful, kind-hearted, decent, responsible, intelligent, honorable man, who loves and cares for me like no other. I will always be eternally grateful that we found each other and decided to share our lives. I think it would be very difficult for me to find another man who understands and appreciates me as much as Bill does. Not everyone can take my personality, my sense of humor, or my very distinctive, cackling laugh.

Bwahahahaha! This was just one of the challenges of our wedding day. And yes, we had rain, too! Guess it was good luck!

As I was writing the above lists, I suddenly remembered that day in early August 2007. Bill had been in Iraq for six months, working as a deputy for a very abusive boss who was later very publicly fired from the Army. Although Bill was never in much physical danger when he was downrange, he had a boss who enjoyed abusing him and others who worked with them. It was probably the longest six months of Bill’s life.

I spent those months alone with our two dogs in a brand new house at Fort Belvoir. Although I missed Bill terribly, I took care of myself and the dogs, and started to prepare us for our first move to Germany. Bill got a temporary bump in pay, so I took the opportunity to start paying off debts. I paid off his credit cards and bumped up my student loan payments by $20. I remember thinking we’d never get beyond those debts. Hell, even five years ago, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. As of last year, they’re gone.

And then there was that day in August when Bill came home from war. I drove to Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC– otherwise known as National– to wait for him to emerge. There was Bill in his uniform, a look of sheer delight on his face when he saw me. His boss walked ahead of me to greet his family and Bill came charging toward me and enveloped me in a tight hug that almost knocked me over. It was a true movie moment. People were standing around us, watching the reunion. We went home, where I had decorated the house with streamers and balloons, and baked him his favorite chocolate cake… and we spent several days making up for all of the sex we didn’t have while he was gone. Six weeks later, we moved to Germany, where things continued to improve.

The first five years of our marriage were tough, especially financially… but things got a lot easier after Bill went to war. That was when we were finally able to get ahead financially. Moving to Germany also helped, since we got extra money there, and I was making some money from writing. By the time we left Germany in 2009, two of the three kids for whom Bill was paying child support aged out. And two years after that, number three turned 18 and refused to speak to Bill, so we reclaimed her share of the money, too. We started being able to take nice vacations, put money in savings, retire debts, and invest for our future together. Through it all, we loved and trusted each other. Even when we were broke, we were happy just being together. Now that we’re no longer broke, we’re still happy and thriving.

Considering how and where we met, and everything that seemed to be against us, it’s crazy to think we’ve survived everything for so long. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people were certain we’d wind up divorced. But it’s all working out beautifully… so much so that I’ve adopted Keb’ Mo’s lovely song “Life is Beautiful” as our theme. Because it just keeps getting better… despite everything.

I have got to see this man play live. Fortunately, he’ll be in Europe again soon.
My best selfie partner.

Well… here’s to 17 great years with the best husband (for me, at least) ever. And here’s to at least 17 more. Now, time to pack a bag for our night in Frankfurt and days in Poland. It will be yet another fine adventure!

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Bill

The many faces of Bill…

Yesterday, Bill and I decided to go to the Middle Rhein Gorge. We didn’t actually do very much while we were there, because we got a late start and had to sit in some traffic. I took some photos and we had lunch at the Rheinfels “Romantic” Hotel in Saint Goar, which overlooks the Rhein River. Then, after we ate, we went home. It was just one of those days that we had to get out of the house. The weather was beautiful and surprisingly warm, and my Mini Cooper convertible needed driving. The Middle Rhein Gorge is a popular vacation destination, and we happen to live close to it now.

One thing I love to do to Bill when we’re enjoying a day trip, is ask him ridiculous questions. I always expect some kind of shocked reaction, and Bill NEVER disappoints. Yesterday, the question of the day was, “Would you like it if I decided to become a prostitute?”

Now, bear in mind, I would never consider being a sex worker, and Bill knows it. Prostitution is legal in Germany, but I believe sex workers are required to have regular health checkups. I hate going to doctors. Also, I don’t really enjoy sex that much. I mean, I like it with Bill, but that’s only because we know each other very well and he knows and cares about my likes and dislikes in the sack. Random other people who are paying for sex would neither know nor care about my experience. It doesn’t sound like any fun to me… and at my age, probably wouldn’t be much fun for my hypothetical customers, nor would it pay much. So this was a truly ridiculous question. Bill rewarded me with a facial expression like this one.

WTF?

Followed by one that looked like this…

He made this face in December 2017, when his mom came to visit and we took her on a trip to Berlin. I quipped that he once came out of her and now he comes into me…

And then, inevitably, I get this face…

I would not blame Bill if he eventually got annoyed by my silliness and inappropriate questions. Fortunately, he has a great sense of humor and a lot of patience.

When I met Bill, he told me that he never took good pictures. I would beg to disagree. I have a lot of awesome pictures of my husband and he’s become very tolerant of letting me photograph him. I’m not sure if I would be as patient if the situation were reversed. I don’t like having my picture taken because I often look hideous. Bill has had a lot of bad pictures made, but I’ve gotten good at photographing him. I think it’s because I know him very well and can easily tell when he’s going to make an awesome face. I also love him, so I often capture him at his best. Here are a few handsome pictures I’ve managed to get recently.

Someday, if I outlive Bill, maybe his long lost daughters might appreciate the many pictures I have of their dad. He’s a very handsome man to me, not just because of his physical appearance, but because of who he is inside. I may do a lot of griping about things, but I will never complain about Bill. He’s one of the very few people in the world who almost never annoys me. He truly is loving, kind, thoughtful, and caring, even if he probably indulges me too much. I think we work well together because I encourage him to have fun and remind him that deserves love and respect. And he does the same for me, although our needs are different. But mostly, he’s just a lot of fun, witty and intelligent, and mostly game for new experiences. He has a gentleness about him and a deep capacity to love and forgive. It’s always a pleasure to be with him, and an honor to be his wife.

These pictures remind me it’s time for a trip to Italy or Austria… or somewhere else we haven’t been in awhile. We are very fortunate to have so much fun together and enjoy each other’s company so much. Our idiosyncrasies are actually kind of complementary, which is a rare thing in any relationship. We rarely fight, and when we do, the make up is swift and satisfying, with no lingering bullshit. Neither of us has to walk on eggshells around the other, because we’re both eager to settle any disputes and get on with living peacefully.

Sometimes, I forget how much fun we manage to have just being together… and sometimes, I think people who read my blog think I’m just a negative, unhappy, mean-spirited person. I may be negative and cranky sometimes, but I’m definitely not mean-spirited… at least not to people who aren’t clearly asking for it. If you treat me right, there’s nothing I won’t do for you. But shit on me, and that’s when you’ll certainly see the less fun loving side of my personality. Bill is almost always a peach, even to those who mistreat him, but he’s getting a lot better at enforcing boundaries. That may make other people lament, but it’s the best thing for his own self-preservation. No one can stay healthy or happy being a doormat to other people.

I remember when I first fell in love with Bill. My mom could barely stand it. Mom always told me how obnoxious she thinks I am and, apparently, I was even worse when I found love. She said, “I’m not sure I can stand being around Jenny in love.” Fortunately for her, it’s only happened once.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do today. It’s Columbus Day and we still have beautiful weather. Maybe we’ll go somewhere and do something fun. It would probably be a good idea, rather than sitting around the house watching bad TV and drinking wine. No matter what, I’ll probably ask more inappropriate, offensive, or ridiculous questions to provoke one of Bill’s best WTF facial expressions. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch it with the camera.

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